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Women’s stories give new perspective on Passion
4/1/2006

Erich Lessing / Art Resource, N.Y.
Christ’s farewell to the holy women, ca. 1520; Cranach, Luther the Elder (1472-1553) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria   (Erich Lessing / Art Resource, N.Y.)
When Katie Sherrod started to write her Women of the Passion narratives a few years ago, she thought she was preparing a simple Lenten retreat for local parish women.  The result is something far more profound … and a great idea now available to any parish.

Writing in the first person, Sherrod felt powerfully the presence of long-silent women who had witnessed the passion of Jesus Christ. Their voices – more than a dozen of them -- came forth with an urgency, she says. The woman who anoints Jesus. The woman with the flow of blood. The widow with the mite. The woman taken in adultery. Mary Magdalen. Mary, mother of Jesus. 

“I heard them in my head … I felt as if they were impatient to finally get their stories told.”

As the women “took over” the writing, Sherrod created a series of witness accounts that become stations of the cross. “They are meant to be read aloud so that the reader is giving voice to these often unnamed women of Scripture.”

The first retreat with the narratives was so successful, word spread. Now, the voices of the Women of the Passion, used as a Lenten retreat or as part of a Holy Week observance, have been heard in at least one parish in almost every diocese. “People have told me that it was as if they were experiencing the Passion for the first time, especially if they are used to ‘doing the stations’ year after year,” says Sherrod.

She will mail copies for $12 to anyone who requests. E-mail her at ks1246@charter.net.

To respond to this idea, write to Episcopal Life  or e-mail greatidea@episcopal-life.org. We welcome your own great ideas at the same address.

An excerpt

Mary speaks: 'I cannot take my eyes off him'

As I waited in pain for him to be born, now I wait in pain for him to die. I cannot take my eyes off him, for every second that passes takes him farther from me. Where is my bright angel now? I would be the God-Bearer, the angel said. Well, I did my part. And now here he is, this Child of God, dying in a dismal dusty place ...

... I hear a scream and wonder who it is. The sky darkens, thunder rumbles, and a great silence falls. My body feels numb. It seems as if the darkness lasts forever. After a time, however, light returns. Shaken, the soldiers begin taking my child down from the cross. One of them, a centurion I think, motions to them to give me the body.

I sink down on a rock, and with a curious gentleness, the soldiers hand him to me, draping him across my lap. I cradle him, my babe now man. His head lolls against my breast, and his soft hair strokes my chin. I gently close his eyes and with my veil wipe the blood off his face.

I have no tears left. My eyes are spent with weeping, my soul is in tumult, my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people.

John says something to me, and I look up, my eyes blazing.

"Do not call me Naomi, which means Pleasant. Call me Mara, which means Bitter; for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me."

John looks shocked, but what do I care? What are all the prophecies to me now? What do I care for all the fine words of men? My child is dead! Agony forces my head back and I scream at the heavens, "My baby! I want my baby back!"

... I press my broken son to me, as if I can absorb him once again into my body. Oh Beloved! Have mercy on me! Pour Your tender mercies down upon me and help me! Help me! I have no strength left.

And once again, You send my bright angel. I feel the warmth at my back, the angel's hand upon my bent head, and hear the familiar voice: "Mary, Blessed of all Women, do not be afraid, for God is pleased with you."

And I remember the Promise: "All will be well.  All manner of things will be well."


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